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In 2017 none of this mattered much because Labour attracted support simply as the main alternative to an austerity Tory government that had already been in power for seven years. In effect Labour merely offered to end austerity with a lot more public spending and a promise of higher growth. The Shadow Chancellor making this offer, John McDonnell, is a man who has told one public meeting that he would have liked to assassinate Thatcher and who was foolish enough to read from Mao’s Little Red Book in a parliamentary debate. For now, nobody cared. But if Labour is to be taken seriously as an alternative government, then matter it does.

The Left, like the Right, will also have to face up to three demographic problems. The first is the growing number of old people, the higher dependency ratio and the consequent financial problems (considerably exacerbated by the effects of low interest rates on pension funds) which society as a whole must face. Theresa May was hounded for her own maladroit stab at this problem — the so-called dementia tax — but at least she was thinking, as a real government must, about this mounting problem.

Second, there is the simple fact that Britain is an overcrowded country. We already have one of the highest population densities in the world and the population continues to mount. At root this fact lies behind the issues of immigration, access to schools and hospitals, transport, the housing shortage (and thus exorbitant house prices) and even the endless difficulty over situating a third London airport. Reducing or at least stabilising our population should be a top priority.

Third, there is generational inequality, now at an extreme level due to house prices and the decision to load students with massive debts. To be sure, it is hard to see why the children of upper and middle class parents should be subsidised to gain an education likely to improve their earning power. But Britons should realise that simply to load students with debt is to follow a failed and dangerous American model. There student debt is now $1.4 trillion (more than double the total of all credit card debt). This figure frightens Wall Street, where it is understood that many ex-students will fail to repay that debt. The same is doubtless true here. Corbyn’s offer to abolish all tuition fees would add at least £11 billion to the annual education bill — a lot of it going to already privileged young people — when he was only offering the NHS an extra £3 billion. That is not the answer either. Across Europe the lesson of free universities is that they soon become shabby and down-at-heel, and fall in the academic rankings. There needs, in other words, to be some really serious thinking about this problem, not just crowd-pleasing promises.

Over and over again one keeps bumping into the intractable problem of high house prices. Cambridge University is currently developing subsidised housing on a large scale as the only way that it can hope to attract the young academics and researchers on which its future relies. If such schemes are in Cambridge’s corporate interest, why are they not, many times multiplied, also in our national interest?

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